New Perspectives on the Philistines by Aren Maeir

Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University) heads up the excavation team at Tell es-Safi (the site of ancient Gath). Not only is he one of the world’s leading experts on the ancient Philistines, he’s also a really nice guy, and a would-be pirate (just call him ARRRen).

Aren Maeir beside a Philistine altar excavated at Tell es-Safi (ancient Gath)

Aren recently presented a lecture at the College de France in Paris, in which he discussed the most recent archaeological evidence that has led us to update our understanding of Philistine origins, culture, and interactions with the Israelites. It’s fascinating stuff, and a must for those wanting to get up to speed with where research is currently at.

The lecture is in the clip below. Please also check out Aren’s blog on the excavations at Gath here:


3 thoughts on “New Perspectives on the Philistines by Aren Maeir

  1. Here is another point of view:
    The 9th century item of Tel e-Safi-Gat was never finished to be an altar. It was intended to be a four horned altar which two of the horns were accidentally broken during work. This conclusion is based on the following points:
    1. The manufacture of the altar was not concluded; only half of it was finished: two sides and two horns with half of the offering surface. The surface of the other two sides was left with uneven course pecking.
    2. A scarp (roughly in the size and shape of a horn base) can be noticed, in the left back corner of the altar upper face (at the point where one of the two absent horns supposed to be), while the right back corner of the altar (were the 4th horn supposed to be) is partly broken with uneven surface above it.
    3. The altar was found in a room contained domestic, not cultic finds (including common loom weights). Its position was not as in sanctuary, in the rear end of a shrine with its back to a wall and facing the room, neither it was place raised in a sacred niche.
    Possible reconstruct the ‘life story’ of the altar:
    a. The 4 horns were cut, from the stone block brought from the quarry, and shaped roughly, while another stoneworker were carving the cornice on two sides, shaping the surface. Later on, the master craftsman finishing the two roughly prepared horns and carefully sculptures the other two horns.
    b. A working accident occurred – one (or two) horn cracked.
    c. The ex-altar had been moved carefully to be used as a table or a bench in one of the domestic structures. The unfinished sides were covered with coat of white kirton as the other inner faces of the building walls
    The 4 horns altar was a common cultic element in Judea serving mainly for daily personal and communal meal-offering or as incents altar. Its existence in 9th century BC Philistine Gat (as in Philistine Ekron in the 7th century BC) proves the mutual influence between the two cultures
    David Eitam, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem 10.5.2014

    • Thanks for the alternative proposal, David. If the Gath altar is a four-horned altar, this makes for some interesting interactions between the Philistines and Israelites.

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